Ryan Wakefield has spent 20 years working primarily as a graphic artist, but thanks to his late cat, Albert, he was able to find the inspiration he needed to create a fantastical world with all sorts of mythical creatures.
Ever since he was a kid, Ryan has loved the idea of writing his own fantasy novel. But after majoring in journalism for his first two years of college, he chose to develop his visual skills through a career in graphic design… then he met Albert.
“I was just sitting on a patio chair one day and next thing I know, this large, loving cat jumped up into my lap,” Ryan said. “This unexpected visitor decided right then and there that he was staying with me, and I became a pet owner.”
Although Ryan wouldn’t start writing his novel, “Journey to Jumbalot,” until after Albert passed, meeting him was truly the first step in creating the incredible world of Jumbalot, a realm full of “magic, technology, and … creatures called jumboos.”
“I was amazed at how large he was compared to other cats,” he said. “The only thing bigger than his appetite was his heart.”
Ryan has always been fascinated with the idea of animal hybrids, but the inspiration for his curious, tuxedo cat protagonist named Alby came entirely from his own beloved fur baby.
“Alby once struggled to survive as a stray cat and he was forever grateful to Wizoom for taking care of him,” Ryan said about his protagonist. “This love gives Alby the strength he needs to venture through the doorway and into a new world called Jumbalot.”
The real-life Albert may have never dodged pulse blasts from Jumbo pirates or confronted a terrifying leader, but thanks to him, tons of middle schoolers are learning all about self-confidence and overcoming insecurities. In fact, “Journey to Jumbalot” has already won multiple literary awards and has a rating of at least 4/5 on several major book review sites!
“Albert was a plus-size tuxedo cat and was my best friend for 13 years,” Ryan said. “Losing him lit a spark in me to write a book about a house cat for middle grade readers, my way of honoring his memory.”
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